“It’s not a matter of if, but when.’’
A friend of mine had recently taken a screen shot of that quote from the Netflix series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak and uploaded it onto her Instagram Story. Allowing the quote to grip me with fear, I felt a sense of paranoia heightening.
Since Singapore announced its first case of the novel coronavirus on January 23, 2020 , I must admit that a wave of fear had washed over me.
I started to exhibit behaviours that were clearly xenophobic. But just as I was getting too comfortable in my own ways, God spoke to me through various experiences. One of them was during a church service I attended last weekend.
CORONAVIRUS: HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
On Saturday, Pastor Timothy Yeo from Hope Singapore unpacked a very real and prevalent emotion that many are experiencing in the midst of the spread of the coronavirus – fear.
It made me realise how much my actions had been triggered by it.
1. We fear what we do not know
There is so much fear towards the coronavirus because it is unfamiliar. Unlike our common flu, medical professionals are still trying to make sense of what this coronavirus actually is.
This unfamiliarity coupled with the frequent updates on the number of infected cases causes us to expect the worst.
Pastor Yeo summed it up well: “When people don’t know about it, they start to fear the worse… then they start to speculate and form their own theories and logic.”
Essentially, we fear the unknown.
2. We fear what we cannot control
Then there is the fear of the virus being uncontainable. Even if we do all the right things – wear a mask, sanitise our hands, etc – we might not be able to fully prevent ourselves from being infected.
Pastor Yeo said: “The truth is that for many things in life, even though we can influence certain factors, we cannot fully control (the outcome)… We might have bought into certain lies that we actually have control.”
This really hit me hard. That’s exactly it – since when did we have control over our lives at all? Even as a student, we may work really hard for an ‘A’, but still end up at the mercy of the bell curve.
Though we have no control over what is happening around us, there is someone else who has.
It’s like what the Apostle James says:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
But here’s the good news. Though we have no control over what is happening around us, there is someone else who has.
IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY, RECOGNISE GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
“Even when it seems like things have spun out of control like in the case of this virus, God remains sovereign and in control. And because God is in control, it will be okay,” Pastor Yeo assured.
He added: “Our God specialises in helping those who cannot help themselves.”
This is not only a reality now, but also a reality that was accomplished 2,000 years ago.
When we couldn’t save ourselves from sin, God in His love sent his one and only Son to be born as a man here on earth and die on the Cross for us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Our sin – which consists of everything in our life that falls short of God’s holy and perfect standard – would have led to our eternal death and separation from God. But we now have a Saviour, Jesus, who paid the price for our sin so that we can have eternal life.
And Jesus didn’t just stop there – He rose from the grave on the third day. Because of His victory over death, death has lost its sting.
“This is the hope that we have as Christ followers. A living hope that makes us even not afraid of death. Because even if death comes, we know we will be reunited with God in paradise,” said Pastor Yeo.
This is the hope and confidence that we have. We no longer need to live in fear if we believe in Jesus (John 11:25).
IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY, RISE UP AS CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS
As believers who know the antidote to fear, this would naturally result in us responding differently. Pastor Yeo challenged the congregation to rise up and shine for God in a few ways.
Firstly, we can pray.
There are so many out there who need our prayers – those infected, those whose lives have been affected and the healthcare workers on the frontline.
Secondly, we can act responsibly.
Consider the well-being of others – it could be as simple as wearing a mask if we’re coughing or sneezing.
Finally, we can love our neighbours.
With so much xenophobia going around, we can be intentional in bucking that trend.
In that spirit, I’ll be going with some of my church friends to distribute blessing packs to the Chinese nationals on campus this coming week.
“Times of darkness are opportunities for God’s people to shine brighter,” Pastor Yeo encouraged.
Indeed, there’s no need to fear because we belong to a God who is sovereign and who has triumphed over death. And just as how we have been loved so freely, we can also freely extend His love to those around us.
- Has your response to the coronavirus outbreak largely been driven by fear or faith?
- How does going the extra mile to love your neighbours look like?
- How else can we rise up as Christ’s ambassadors?